How Helping Hoops’ Adam McKay turned his passion for sport into a non-profit

Ten years ago, Adam McKay had an idea to use basketball to give something back to his local community. Now, Helping Hoops offers programs for hundreds of underprivileged children around Melbourne.

It may not be considered a quintessentially Australian sport, yet basketball is often listed among the most highly participated by school-aged kids across the country.

For McKay, the sport’s popularity, and the fact that it requires very little in terms of equipment, makes it an ideal activity for keeping disadvantaged youth, and those with special needs, engaged.

“If you look around, our cities have plenty of parks and many of them have hoops – all you need to get playing is a ball,” said McKay.

“By providing the equipment and the guided supervision offered by Helping Hoops coaches, we’re able to give the kids something to do that delivers positive social outcomes and gives them a framework for achieving success in life.”


Growing for good


McKay’s love of basketball harks back to his youth, and while he never played professionally, his non-profit allows him to stay connected to the game every day of the week.

“It started as an idea just to run a clinic or two for some local kids once a week,” said McKay. “It didn’t take long before the word of mouth began to build.”

As more people began to hear of the free-to-attend and after-school-hours program, McKay realised he’d need to scale up his operations, adding more locations, staff and volunteers as he went.

“Nearly 10 years on and we have 10 programs each week with more than 450 sessions across 10 locations around Melbourne.”

Helping Hoops’ organic growth is a sure sign of the community’s hunger for these sorts of initiatives, and while McKay hopes to expand beyond Victoria in the years to come, he says that making sure his organisation is well-funded and running smoothly is his first priority.

“We could probably start delivering our free programs in Sydney’s western suburbs tomorrow if we wanted to,” said McKay. “But I wouldn’t want to do it until we’re absolutely certain it won’t cause any logistical problems for us.”

Instead, McKay wants to focus on building a lean, efficient organisation with sufficient funds to grow its future.


Building a funding funnel


While the team at Helping Hoops run regular fundraising activities and sell branded merchandise through their website, McKay says a significant portion of the organisation’s funds are delivered through non-government grants.

Luckily, McKay’s other skillset lies in photography, so he has no trouble exhibiting the good work Helping Hoops does to prospective funding partners.

“We put a lot of effort into keeping our website and social media channels up to date, but there’s also a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into each grant application,” said McKay.

Prospective corporate partners want to know how their funding will be used, while also being confident that the basketball programs deliver the outcomes promised.

“For some people, it’s hard to see the benefits of basketball training clinics when it’s described on paper. But once people see them in action, they’re usually convinced immediately,” he said.

“Trick is: we have to be good at doing both.”


Honing operational efficiencies


When funding for a new program is secured, the next step is to ensure Helping Hoops has the capacity to deliver it.

McKay and the organisation’s Operations Manager, Teuila Reid, are the main, admin-focused employees of Helping Hoops.

But it’s the head coaches McKay employs that form the backbone of the Helping Hoops crew.

“Labour is probably the number one cost on our books,” said McKay. “After that, it’s venue hire followed by administration costs, travel costs and so on.”

That’s where having a great online accounting software has also fed into Helping Hoops’ success.

“Having a package like MYOB in our back-end systems allows for greater operational efficiency and enhanced transparency, which is absolutely critical for running a non-profit,” said McKay.

“We can’t afford to let any cent go to waste, because that could eventually result in a child not getting access to one of our programs.”

McKay highlights payroll and superannuation as one of the biggest timesavers he’s benefitted from since beginning to use MYOB for Helping Hoops.

“Figuring out super and getting everyone paid used to take a couple of days out of each month. Now it takes barely any time at all – and all this means better outcomes for the kids.

“We simply wouldn’t be where we are without MYOB.”

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